American Corporate Copyright: A Brilliant, Uncoordinated Plan

This Faculty Working Paper has been updated and posted within the Faculty Scholarly Works Series. It is currently available here.


This essay takes three quick looks at American copyright law through the eyes of an observer from an undeveloped economy. Look One focuses on Eldred v. Ashcroft and recent legislative initiatives that give the appearance that American copyright law is completely dominated by corporate interests. Look Two emphasizes the huge holes in American copyright law that allow users and competitors to engage in massive copying, e.g. fair use principles, the Altai and Feist tests, contributory liability and exhaustion rules, and various other statutory exceptions to liability. Look Three points out that these exceptions keep American consumers quiescent by keeping the cost of copyright protection here relatively low. This allows the U.S. government to pursue a TRIPS+/Berne+ worldwide copyright strategy without a hint of domestic interference. The essay concludes by suggesting what developing countries can learn from the U.S. approach.